Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Turning our heads to the wall

There are men you can fight.
Strangers. The ones that you are taught are dangerous, the only men who will hurt you. Probably dark skinned. You can fight them. You should. You must.
And there are men you are supposed to trust. The ones that live in your house. That work beside you. That sit next to you in class, or hold doors open for you, or say hello when you are at the grocery store. You aren't supposed to fight those men. You aren't supposed to see the way they look at you, or take them seriously when they are just joking, or feel threatened when they are drunk or when they raise their voice at you. Anything untoward you see, anything you hear, from a nice man, a white man, a man you know, is a mistake on your part. You misunderstood.
You learn.
You get better calming those men. You get better looking out from their eyes and seeing things the way they do. Your body. Sex. The room. The world. You know what will upset him, what he needs to hear and feel and see. You know how to say things that would make you cringe if you saw another woman saying them. Because if you were watching your sister or your mother or your friend say these things, do these things, you would recognize their shame, the shame you learned to stop seeing in yourself.
Appeasing a man.
Because you are afraid of what his anger will damage.
Because keeping the anger from happening is easier than fixing what might break.
When you don't have a grown woman nearby as your ally, you have to weigh the consequences.
What happens if I don't calm him?
Who might get hurt?
How will I get home?
What happens once I get home?
How many other people will know?

We left the bar sometime after Virginia and Colorado were called. In front of me as I walked home alone, an agitated woman in her 20s was talking on the phone and asking if she could spend the night at the apartment of the person on the other end. Her boyfriend was upset over the election, and had decided to stay out and get trashed, and she had not been able to explain to him how the election upset her as well, but how she didn't want to take care of him when he stumbled home, or be around him. He had gotten angry with her for being a drama queen.
What belongs to you, once you have told a man you love him? What do you get to keep for yourself, and not have to surrender?
Is it worth wearing things he doesn't like, or "making a scene" that embarrasses him, or showing your intelligence or success, unless he can prove himself better and smarter and more successful than you? How does he react when he feels intimidated? Insecure? Emasculated?
Will he just belittle you, or will he yell? Will he keep it private, or will it become a spectacle? Will he take out his anger on passerby? How many people are you responsible for protecting in this instance?
How much is a man responsible for the consequences of his emotions, once he has a woman to "take care of him"?
I heard myself a few nights ago, soothing and shushing and changing the subject and not rising to the bait slapped down in front of me, over, over, over.  I knew, he is feeling insecure. He is stressed. He is proud. He is hurting. He needs care.
This man isn't my lover. Because I have learned, to a pathological degree, to run from this sensation in a lover.
But how much can we really escape our female programming, no matter how strong we think we are?
I heard myself saying the words, and told myself it didn't matter, because I would get to leave him and lock my door, because I wasn't his wife and could pay my own tab and get home on my own feet and I told myself it didn't matter that I was letting him scream in the street and have a temper tantrum and sneer at me and pontificate about how he, too, was going to run for President.
Run for President.
I laughed when he grabbed me, because we've known each other a decade and he's been there for me, you know? He wouldn't...he just wouldn't.
Run for President.
I cried this morning and my boyfriend listened to me talk about being sexually harassed by a man I was standing next to while wearing a suit, with two powerful women next to us that didn't even hear it. Because you stop hearing it at some point. There's too much. And my boyfriend said, "I believe you," and I cried harder, because I don't believe myself anymore.
What does it mean to love a man when you can't draw the line any more between his feelings and yours, his perceptions and yours, because the ability to see the world through his eyes is what keeps you safe? When you can't distinguish the parts of your sexuality that are you and the parts that are him? When you allow your friend to tell you you aren't as smart as he is, but you run from your lover because you can't predict his next move, and not being able to predict a man's next move is just too fucking terrifying?
I cried this morning, thinking about all of the white men who will feel stronger and more powerful because a pussy grabber is President. Will it make me safer, because they are more confident and not as threatened and emasculated? Or will it put me in more jeopardy, because they will know they can do anything, anything, and because the number of possible victims just exploded, because no matter how hard white women work to appease, they will not be able to protect anyone. Maybe even themselves. I wonder about women voting for that bastard, and I think about me, sitting at that table, trying to calm him down. We can't have them angry. We can't have the world set up in a way that makes them insecure. We need them to feel calm. Shh. Shh.
White women's power comes from her relation to white men. It is a power he has to be in the mood to bequeath. She is his property, she is his reason for destroying other men, a tool, an object. A balm. She cannot stand alone. It is an abomination.
Michael tells me we will all have to toughen up. Hard days are coming.
My first step is not to answer the phone right now, as my white male friend calls to gloat about the election and tell me about his plans to reach the Senate in five years, wrapped up in a "Happy Birthday, let me buy you a drink."
I know there is a good man inside there someplace.  I have seen him, I have been his friend for years. But I cannot, cannot appease any longer. Appeasing the upset white man and making excuses for him, and tiptoeing around my stepfather/my friend/the man we should be able to trust.
And this world you are building of humiliation and hierarchies will have to soothe you, and comfort you, and build you up when you feel threatened. The "subjective" values you despise are the ones that could have saved you.
My care is a gift I do not owe you. And I do not know how to fight anymore. The models for fighting are based on the idea that your enemy is a stranger.
But he isn't. He says he is your friend. He says he cares about you. He seems to care, sometimes. But only as long as he feels he is better than you.

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